Saturday, May 31, 2014
Immigration Article of the Day: Equal protection, immigrants and access to health care and welfare benefits – a 2014 update by Mel Cousins
Abstract: The introduction of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) led to considerable litigation on the rights of immigrants to welfare benefits and access to health care. There was significant divergence between the approaches adopted by the different courts (both federal and State) based, in part, on the different statutory schemes involved but also on different approaches to equal protection. However, none of the cases reached the Supreme Court so the ‘correct’ approach remained unclarified. In response to the Great Recession and subsequent budget crises, several States have again excluded certain legal immigrants from the scope of State health care or welfare schemes and these decisions are currently under challenge in the courts. A number of these cases were discussed in an earlier (2012) article. This note discusses subsequent cases, in particular, two Circuit Courts’ recent rulings in Korab v Fink (Ninth Circuit) and Bruns v Mayhew (First Circuit) and the decision of the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey in Guaman v Velez and considers whether and how these decisions contribute to a clarification of the legal position.